In the US, many women will experience a urinary health concern at least once in their lifetime. In fact, women are more likely than men to have a urinary concern, as bacteria can more easily reach the bladder due to the shorter length of the urethra in women. The urethra carries urine from the bladder out of the body. Pregnant women are at increased risk for a urinary tract concern – especially in the early weeks of pregnancy. Here are 5 things to know about your urinary tract health during pregnancy.
1. Know how urinary bacteria changes in pregnancy.
The changing hormones in your body that support your pregnancy also change the ratio and type of bacteria in your urinary tract. A growing uterus puts pressure on the bladder, sometimes making it harder to empty completely. Leftover urine in the bladder is a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Bacteria can also spread from your bladder to your kidneys, which may lead to kidney concerns. Urinary tract bacteria that are untreated may raise the risk of developing high blood pressure, which can lead to preeclampsia. Preeclampsia can come on quickly in pregnant women and is characterized by changes in blood pressure, swelling, protein in the urine, headaches, and vision changes. It is dangerous for both the mother and baby.
2. Pay attention to symptoms.
Although a pregnant woman can have a urinary tract issue and not have symptoms, it is important to take note and let your doctor know if you have pain or a burning feeling when you urinate, pressure in your lower abdomen, blood in the urine, or cloudy or smelly urine. Providing a urine sample is a standard part of any prenatal visit to the obstetrician, which can help detect an issue – especially if a woman is asymptomatic. Often times a concern may present with no symptoms and go unnoticed until it spreads to the kidneys. Regular check-ups can help in monitoring urinary tract health.
3. Be aware of treatment options.
A urinary tract issue that develops during pregnancy must be treated with an antibiotic that is safe for pregnancy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on medication safety during pregnancy through its “Treating for Two” initiative. However, with the rise of antibiotic resistance, new studies are focusing on ways to keep your urinary tract healthy during pregnancy. These include increased hygiene practices, immunizations, and incorporating healthy dietary habits.
4. Take steps to keep your urinary tract healthy.
Although most pregnant women are frequently urinating due to limited bladder size and increased fluid requirements, making sure that you urinate when you need to (versus holding it in) is an important step to keeping your urinary tract healthy.
Taking showers or short baths, wiping front to back after urination, urinating before and after sex, drinking plenty of fluids, and avoiding tight-fitting underwear may also help keep your urinary tract healthy.
5. Think Cranberry.
Cranberries naturally contain compounds that can decrease the ability of bacteria to stick to the bladder wall and build up in the urinary tract. Consider adding a high-quality cranberry supplement, some cranberry juice, fresh cranberries, cranberry sauce, or a handful of dried cranberries to your daily routine.
A healthy pregnancy sets the foundation for a healthy baby. Keeping your urinary tract healthy during pregnancy ultimately begins with rest, fluids, and a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, including cranberry daily. Regular check-ups and conversations with your doctor are essential too.